Caño Cristales (English: Crystal Channel) is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta, and is a tributary of the Guayabero River. The river is commonly called the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and is noted for its striking colors.
Over the years some have said the river is one of the most beautiful on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso).
This body of water actually looks pretty normal most of the time – at least until it explodes into color from around July through November.
During this time, Macarenia clavigera, a unique plant that lines the bottom of the river, turns a vibrant red, interspersed with blue waters, green moss, and yellow sand.
Sometimes, the river can also appear a bright blue, hot pink, orange, or a deep maroon, according to the BBC.
But it’s not magic that makes this river look so vibrant. According to Algae World News, it’s the macarenia clavigera plant, which is a particular aquatic plant that’s different from algae or moss. The right water level and weather can make a big difference in what colors you can see on any given day.
Besides being beautiful, the plant is also very sensitive to its environmental conditions. The best time to go is when the weather is bright and sunny, so light can reflect the colors. The waters must be high enough for the plants to thrive, but not so high that you can’t see the river bottom, otherwise they’ll die and turn brown, according to the travel website, Rove.
Not only is the rainbow river an excellent photo opportunity, you can also go swimming in certain parts. Only 200 people are allowed to swim per day, however, in order to protect the picky plants.
Next time you go on a South American adventure, be sure to pack your suit and a waterproof camera. This is a sight that shouldn’t be missed.